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Thailand Tries Spiritual Rehabilitation to Fight Drug Addiction

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The Department of Probation and the Kwan Paendin Center are partnering to fight Thailand’s drug addiction epidemic as methamphetamine use continues to plague the country.

Having been addicted to methamphetamine for 20 years, Maam, 35 was always sent straight to drug rehab when she was caught, never being charged with a crime.

Eventually, she began selling drugs mostly to locals in her village. After being caught with 50-Meth pills in her possession, Maam was no longer a drug user, and she was charged with dealing.

For her crime, she was taken to Phumrapee Camp in Nakhon Sawan’s Takhli district for drug rehabilitation. She turned over a new leaf during her 12-day stay at the camp.

The program is a collaboration between the Kwan Paendin Centre and the Department of Probation of the Justice Ministry.

Over the past two decades, the Kwan Paendin Centre has run more than 300 drug rehabilitation camps and helped improve the lives of over 30,000 drug offenders. However, this is its first time partnering with the Department of Probation.

Drug addiction programme

At Phumrapee Camp, 115 participants received vocational training, health rehabilitation, and shared their experiences about drug addiction during a 12-day programme.

Despite having committed offences under Section 56 of the Criminal Code, participants are treated as drug users rather than dealers under the Drug Addict Rehabilitation Act, which decriminalized drug abuse.

Former governor Suwat said the centre’s rehabilitation program was different from others.

Drug users are first and foremost treated as patients in need of both physical and mental health care.

Participants are not punished or required to cut their hair, which is often viewed as a demeaning measure.

Having no punishment reduces the bias of supervisors and encourages mutual respect and trust,” he said. “We don’t cut their hair or shave their heads and it makes them feel comfortable and safe.”

As a result of the trust built during the drug addiction programme, some participants are willing to share information about their drug networks and authorities have gathered information about users and dealers, including state officials. Two million speed pills have been interrupted by the recent programme.

Wiwat Polamuang drug addiction programme

Within the drug addiction program, participants share “techniques” they use in drug operations that can be categorized into five major categories: hiding drugs; negotiating to get out of trouble; avoiding checkpoints; fooling drug tests; and drug-related slang.

Dr Withawal Sunthornkachit, director-general of the Probation Department, said the drug rehabilitation scheme is based on the Wiwat Polamuang programme, and it continues to treat drug users as patients, rather than criminals.

People who decide to participate in the drug rehab program at Kwan Paendin Centre do so voluntarily.

Although there are strengths to the program, there may also be weaknesses. Participants may be threatened or harassed if they share information, he said.

He noted, however, that it is still necessary to investigate and verify the information provided by the participants before any further action can be taken.

In addition to the two-drug rehab centres located in Pattani and Pathum Thani, Mr Witthawal said more are on their way.

Becoming a new person after being released

Twelve days are spent doing various activities under the supervision of trainers, probation officers, and police officers. Some people, like Maam, saw it as a second chance.

It’s my New Year’s resolution to become a new person after I’m released. I’ve learned how to cook, and I’m hoping to make a career out of it.

The 33-year-old electrician, who spent only a short time at the drug addiction camp, decided that enough was enough, and it was time to break free from his drug addiction that had destroyed his financial security, made his parents cry, and threatened his 18-year relationship with his girlfriend.

Driving under the influence led to a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two months. It was also revealed that he was a small-time drug dealer.

When he needed an identification card to use for a job application, he had to make contact with probation officials. However, he failed to report to them on a regular basis.

He said, “I learned a thing or two here. I don’t know whether my attitude has changed, but one thing is certain, I’m quitting drugs.”

Source: Bangkok Post

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